Hide and Seek

Bomb Rating: 

I already suffered through this film once, when it was called "Secret Window." "Hide and Seek" has the exact same "twist" ending, which is much less a twist than it is a joke. When the movie finally revealed the killer, my eyes just rolled back into my head like the dials on a slot machine. The only way I could have been more indignant was if the killer had been the family cat.

Director John ("Swimfan") Polson loads up on thriller clich�s like Jessica Simpson loads up on "ums" during a live interview. From the opening moments, it's obvious that this film will be pure garbage and that the director's approach to creating tension will be precisely the opposite of what actually creates tension. Isn't surprise, by definition, unexpected? Then why does Polson have psychiatrist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) wake up in the middle of the night and walk down a long hallway toward the sound of dripping water in the bathroom accompanied by ominous music? When he finds his wife (Amy Irving) dead in the tub, it's not exactly a shock. Frankly, knowing the acting capabilities of Amy Irving, I was kind of relieved.

David moves to upstate New York with his daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), so that she can recover from the trauma. In order to create suspense where there otherwise would be none, Polson makes virtually every other character creepy. The guy who sells David the house is creepy. The sheriff (Dylan Baker) is creepy. The neighbors, Laura (Melissa Leo) and Steven (Robert John Burke), are creepy. The only person who isn't creepy is recently divorced Elizabeth (Elisabeth Shue), but her apparent attraction to David and Emily combined with her various low-cut blouses makes one wonder if she isn't out of her mind anyway.

After all, what woman, divorced or not, would go after a man 20 years her senior with a sadistic daughter? There's actually a scene where Emily mutilates a doll belonging to Elizabeth's niece, who runs screaming from the house. For most people, this is a sign to get far away. For Elizabeth, apparently it's some kind of mating call. Not only is Emily abusing dolls, but she has an imaginary friend named Charlie who's wreaking all kinds of havoc. Messages written in blood appear on the bathroom wall, and Emily blames Charlie. Meanwhile, David tries to figure it all out, writing in his journal and calling his friend, Katherine (Famke Janssen), who we just know will be driving up to the house soon so she can either save the day or be eaten alive by whatever extraterrestrial is supposedly committing all these bizarre acts.

"Hide and Seek" is akin to a drum roll leading up to a magnificent feat that never actually happens. Two hours of continuous, one-dimensional noise is not my idea of suspense.

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